Immerse yourself into the turbulent streams of Ketola's deadly waters.
With age comes growth and death metal has made leaps in experimentation since the genre's glory days, further expanding into new branches that incorporate sounds from across the musical spectrum. One could say that death metal is undergoing a renaissance of sorts with full-lengths arriving by the truckload week after week, each either paying homage to the greats or some trying something unique. There are those who do both, like Italy's BEDSORE, who pull from the past and look towards the future with a cinematic approach to their elegant delivery of the genre, a la Human-era DEATH.
Those who took on the band's 2020 debut outing, Hypnagogic Hallucinations, can attest to the talent lying within the band's ranks. From the eery opening of The Gate, Disclosure to the richly layered Brains on the Tarmac, BEDSORE crafted a composition to lose yourself to with an artistic pairing by the mighty Timo Ketola. Their debut outing, which arrived back in July via 20 Buck Spin, harnesses a plethora of audiovisual elements for a truly tantalizing sitting, presenting new dynamics with every consecutive visit. With a Ketola that captures the cosmic atmospheres of the Italian unit in a life-like manner, Hypnagogic Hallucinations stands as not only a testament of excellence in death metal, but an effort that comes complete with a wondrous creative approach, making for a journey of a listening experience to those with the patience of engaging with the material.
We talk to BEDSORE frontman Jacopo Gianmaria Pepe about the band's remarkable collaboration with Timo Ketola for the landscapes of Hypnagogic Hallucinations:
Atmosphere is the name of the game when it comes to Bedsore. From S.Gore’s cosmic cover on your 2018 self-titled demo to Timo Ketola’s work on ‘Hypnagogic Hallucinations’, you’ve managed to present your releases in such a visually appealing manner. How important is it for you to have the artistic components of the release embody that of your music?
Pepe: The graphic and artistic component is a fundamental part of our proposal and goes hand in hand with the musical aspect. As you said, in our songs, atmospheres play a main role, so I often don't feel fully convinced of a work until I begin to perceive its aesthetic aspects as well; sometimes I try to visualize some images even during the drafting of the first riffs, but the magic begins when a true artist puts his hand on our material and begins to channel our influences into something concrete, at that moment I finally feel that our music is able to express itself to its maximum potential, both visually and audibly engaging me all the way.
With the plethora of great artists available, what made you go with Timo Ketola for your debut release? A great choice, by the way.
Pepe: We consider Timo Ketola one of the best metal illustrators of the last twenty years. We grew up with many of the records in which he collaborated and it was inevitable that as well as in terms of songwriting we were also influenced by those occult and evocative atmospheres that distinguish his unique art and that gave an additional and unknown power to music. For us, it was the first and most obvious choice.
Visually, what were you looking for when approaching Ketola for the project?
Pepe: After the first meetings with the artist, we evaluated and discussed various techniques but the initial idea was certainly that of an oil painting and then it was in fact the path that we decided to follow even after discussing. We wanted something rich and majestic, something in which the listener / observer could completely get lost in search of meanings, interpretation and hidden details. This also led to the choice of creating an integral painting capable of covering the front and back of the album. We did not want to be limited by the format of the cover and above all there was the desire to create something not very immediate and more atmospheric that needed more attention and various listening / views to be understood, in parallel with our music.
The influences present on the ‘Hypnagogic Hallucinations’ cover are evident and strongly present, the likes of which include Krypts’ ‘Cadaver Circulation’ (2019), Edge of Sanity’s ‘The Spectral Sorrows’ (1993), Morbus Chron’s ‘Sweven’ (2014), and even Genesis’ ‘Foxtrot’ (1972) to name a few. How were you looking to implement these influences for the cover?
Pepe: Our gaze has always been aimed at trying to create something unique, which could partially recreate the atypical atmospheres present in our music. What we had in mind was something strongly Death Metal that at the same time paid tribute to the great prog rock groups of the early 70's (EL&P, Goblin, Genesis, Yes, Magma, PFM, King Crimson, etc.) that were and still are today among the greatest influences for us. The works of Venenum and Krypts have certainly been good references regarding those Death Metal vibrations that we wanted to be present in the work, as well as obviously for many other things regarding colors, drawn through the idea of the size of the canvas, see "Trance of Death" (2017) for example.
From "Foxtrot" (1972) by Genesis, we wanted to incorporate the landscape and fairytale component typical of the covers of the genre of those years. Even "Sweven" (2014) by Morbus Chron was an excellent inspiration from this point of view but it managed to be so in a much less derivative but more personal way, managing to naturally combine the two universes, and that was exactly what we wanted to be able to do. Furthermore, surreal and dreamlike themes are an integral part of the concept of our music so it would be undeniable to say that the latter has always fascinated us.
The final artwork is emblematic from this point of view and I think it best encompasses all the aforementioned components. A dream landscape worthy of the greatest progressive covers, but which, observed in detail, hides the remains of a decaying corpse, now buried among rocks and streams. As in our worst nightmares, there is no logic to dictate the evolution of the narrative and this is what we want for our art. An intimate journey through the realms of dream and death of the human soul.
In looking at the sketches, concepts, and reference images provided to Ketola for the cover, it would appear this was an engaging collaborative process. What can you comment about the partnership?
Pepe: We are totally satisfied with the result, beyond our most positive prediction. The creative process was totally inspired and natural, all driven primarily by Ketola.
Usually we do not like to concretely interfere too much with everything that is the aesthetic sector, we prefer to illustrate the concept behind the proposal and then let the artist be guided by the flow of the music, and then perhaps discuss the subsequent stages together. We think that the best way is to let him work in a totally free way, since an illustrator with his technical ability and his experience is able to have a much more complete and profound vision than us. Indications of specific subjects or elements could only create the risk of harnessing potential intuitions, from those the choice of giving a few very abstract guidelines, only to slightly outline what we have in mind then letting the music do the rest.
The digital versions of a painting are of course great and accessible, but there’s an organic feel that can’t be matched by seeing it in person. With you and Ketola having met in-person multiple times throughout the process, were you able to see it for yourself?
Pepe: Yes, being able to see each other in person several times was probably the keystone in the success of the work. They were very productive encounters which, in addition to inspiring the work on the cover, gave us as well ideas to compose new music and seek new sources of inspiration. Seeing the painting taking shape in its various stages live was a great emotion, especially being aware of the feelings that the album contains within it and that were slowly imprinted on the canvas in a combination of music, concepts and art.
Seeing as it went through a variety of stages and color shifts, about how long did the painting take to complete?
Pepe: We got in touch with Timo Ketola at the beginning of summer 2019 even if the work on the cover only started in the following autumn and ended about 8 months later in time for the release of the album. I know it may seem like an exaggerated time frame but I think that by working in the best and most accurate way possible there are no deadlines to meet other than the one given by feeling fully satisfied with the result.
Do you feel as though the painting was particularly guided to fit your artistic desires or was Ketola allowed free reign in terms of his interpretation of your concepts?
Pepe: As I anticipated, Ketola worked in total freedom interpreting our concepts in a completely personal key and this was our full will. Obviously we confronted and discussed various points together especially in the subsequent phases of the work, for example the detail of the skull was an element on which we went back several times looking for a result that most satisfied both parties, but in general the flow was always mainly led by the artist.
Diving deeper into the sketches, there was a change in the logo color and overall feel of the painting. It went from a darker, more somber take on the mountainous terrain to a brighter, more vibrant one. Can you elaborate on the reason for the changes?
Pepe: There were no artistic or technical reasons behind the visible evolution in the various stages of the painting. It was all simply part of a long process in which we tried to create the right chromatic balance for each element.
There were a few layout illustrations that Ketola put together in possibly shaping the structure of the skulls that were used in the cover painting. Did these play a part at all in shaping the cover?
Pepe: Strange as it may seem, there is no concept-level connection between the layout illustration and the cover art. As I will explain, the idea for this illustration started as an input from the band and then later, randomly, found itself recalling the theme of the skull on the cover.
As you’ve mentioned, these particular skull layouts were driven by Keith Emerson’s (The Nice, etc.) eclectic performance tactics, which include his use of knives in his organ playing. Where in this did you find inspiration?
Pepe: Yes exactly, the idea for this illustration was born from a sketch I created after the revision of some Emerson, Lake & Palmer concerts from the early 70's, all then appropriately redesigned and revisited by Ketola. We could consider Keith Emerson as one of the greatest musicians of the whole 1900. His visionary compositional style, theatrical stage presence, cathartic and self-destructive performances (worthy of Jimi Hendrix), infinite technical background and the experimental attitude in using an instrumentation which is always ahead of the times are all aspects that have enormously shaped what Bedsore represents today. Among the music we most appreciated we remember the first works with The Nice, Emerson Lake & Palmer and some solo works such as the magnificent soundtrack from the film “Inferno” (1980) directed by Dario Argento. A figure able to merge and revolutionize the most disparate worlds: Jazz, Classical, Electronic, Rock and Film Music.
Audiences won’t be able to grasp the full beauty of the entire cover painting unless they’ve seen it in full, which is possible if one purchases the gatefold LP of course. Do you feel as though this effect is lost for those who choose to simply stream the release?
Pepe: Absolutely not, because as we explained earlier, the will was precisely to create something not completely immediate even under the graphic aspect that would therefore proceed hand in hand with the music. It is not a mystery or a novelty that Hypnagogic Hallucinations is a record that, obviously, needs various listening and a research (perhaps even an introspection) to be fully grasped in all its deepest aspects, so we feel completely convinced of the choice we made.
You’d also need to see the full painting to realize the life growing and river flowing atop the rotted corpse. I’d argue that the body decomposition here is more than literal, symbolic even. Where did you and Ketola find common ground in conveying your themes via his art?
Pepe: You got that right. Decomposition is absolutely symbolic, mental and spiritual and it is the one that derives from being able to remain trapped in one's subconscious and in one's dreams in the grip of anguish and fears, in a surreal world where you are no longer able to recognize anything of what you were used to, not even yourself. There are many ways in which you can end up in this state, for us the key to this aberrant world was the loss of a loved one, in fact the record is totally dedicated to the latter. It was not necessary to discuss the themes in depth with the artist, music and lyrics were the perfect vehicle and consequently everything took shape as we imagined it.
Mandatory question for us here at Heaviest of Art. Do you recall a time when an album cover made you pick up a record or even changed the way that you engaged with it?
Pepe: Here a bunch of those kind of records, even if the list could be much longer:
Pink Floyd - Ummagumma (Cover art by Studio Hipgnosis)
In Solitude - Sister (Cover art by Sara Gewalt)
Swallowed - Lunarterial (Cover art by Peter Birkhauser)
Emma Ruth Rundle - On Dark Horses (Cover art by ERR)
Mortuous - Through Wilderness (Cover art by Marald Van Haasteren)
Funebrarum - Dormant Hallucination (Cover art by Dan Seagrave)
Jethro Tull - Aqualung (Cover art by Burton Silverman)
Angel Witch - Angel Witch (Cover art by John Martin)
Phrenelith / Spectral Voice - Split (Cover art by Emil Tibell)
Hooded Menace - Fulfill the Curse (Cover art by Putrid)
Area - Crac! (Cover art by Edoardo Sivelli)
Dead Congregation - Graves of the Archangels (Cover art by TK)
Urfaust - Geist ist Teufel (Cover art by Manuel Tinnemans)
Tribulation - The Formulas of Death (Cover art by Jonathan Hulten)
Elder - Lore (Cover art by Adrian Dexter)
With 'Hypnagogic Hallucinations' now out across the world, where do you see the record now compared to when you were first putting it together?
Pepe: To us, the record has certainly not changed at all after its release, we have worked for so long on every little sound and aesthetic detail that it would be difficult to see it now in a different light.
One thing that surprised us enormously, however, is the feedback that the album has received to date, especially considering our rather sectorial and atypical proposal. After all, we always make and have made music only for ourselves and the response that the public is giving us is exciting. All of this pushes us even further to follow our instincts and intuitions in the composition, so we will try to definitively break the stylistic features of the genre and make our formula ever more visionary and personal.
Though live shows are non-existent for the foreseeable future, it has allowed for you all to embark on different musical projects and of course start the creative process for the follow-up to ‘Hypnagogic Hallucinations’. Is Ketola’s artistic prowess to be expected for this next chapter?
Pepe: It was and it will be a severe blow not to be able to support the album live. Sharing the messages and emotions that our music contains with real people is a fundamental aspect of our being artists. On the studio side at the moment, we plan to release a split EP with a high-profile band, the Japanese Mortal Incarnation, released this year by Sentient Ruin and yes, we have already planned to work with Ketola for this minor release as well as for our next full-length.
Hypnagogic Hallucinations is available now via 20 Buck Spin. Get yours HERE.